The Tampa Bay Lightning will fill one of their bottom-six forward roles with a well-liked NHL veteran, signing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to a two-year contract according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. The deal is expected to carry an average annual value of $1MM.
Bellemare, 36, has played 51 postseason games over the past four years, filling a checking role with the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche. Though his playing career is likely coming to an end relatively soon, he’ll give it at least one more go with the reigning Stanley Cup champions. With the Lightning forced to part with Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, Tyler Johnson and Blake Coleman due to cap concerns, they needed to find some players to fill the third and fourth line for cheap. Bellemare is a strong candidate, though he’ll likely be lining up beside players more than ten years younger than him.
Undrafted, Bellemare took an interesting path to the NHL, spending several years in the French professional league back home before heading to Sweden for his formative professional years. By the time he debuted in the NHL in 2014, he was already nearly 30 years old. He has never been much of an offensive contributor at this level, but offers unending energy and slick defensive ability in the middle of the ice. The fact that he won more than 60% of his draws this season was surely not lost on the Lightning, whose best faceoff man is a part-time center in Steven Stamkos.
It’s unlikely that Bellemare will be able to replicate the production of any of those four players mentioned above, but the cap-strapped Lightning will have to make due. If they put him in the correct situations, he can still be a valuable addition to any playoff lineup.